Never Was A Cosby Kid: Gender, Race & Hypocrisy

I’m not saying I’m any more clever than anyone else but I guess I never really elevated Bill Cosby to the level of “father figure” or “community statesman”. I’m more skeeved out by the fact that I was a huge Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids fan when I was little than that I ever loved The Cosby Show.

And to tell the honest truth, I have very conflicted personal not-nice associations with that show. The main one being that a group of kids I taught a workshop to in Austin called me a “Cosby kid” one day and made me cry in my car afterwards. Long backstory, they didn’t mean it in a nice way, they meant Vanessa. Can’t go into it now.

I didn’t think I particularly had a strong opinion about Bill Cosby’s arrest & charge but I realized there’s a couple of things I do want to say related to this case:

1) Somehow I’d been hearing & overhearing about Cosby assaulting women since I was a kid whether in grownup convos from the grapevine, or side comments at Cosby Show night at The House during my undergrad Yale years., As far as I’m concerned this is all common knowledge, a given. I was surprised that people DID NOT know and wondering why it’s taken so long. I am claiming no special insider status, I believe I even read about it some time in the 1980’s.

2) That said, when he fired Lisa Bonet for doing the (very good, btw) Angel Heart, I was pretty disgusted by the NERVE he had to be self-righteous misogynistic & paternalistic considering what he was known to do so I was done with him then. Way before Pound Cake and his black respectability tour. Which by the way totally lines up with his own behavior.

3) All this talk about how he’s a philanthropist & a leader in the community matters not one iota to me. Neither does the completely illogical line of thinking that he’s being “railroaded” because he is a black man. Let me make this simple: while there are many (even most) black men who are in the criminal justice system wrongly or are in it and subject to overly harsh punishments, that does not mean that you assume that is the case for every black man. Even if he is rich and famous. Especially so. Because there are still black men who commit crimes that deserve punishment. And that does NOT mean all black men deserve punishment. I’ve seen some bizarre leaps in logic lately & that needs to stop. Believing that Cosby raped his victims does not equate to hatred of all black men. Not by a long shot. That is ridiculous mostly because Cosby is far from most black men in status, wealth, influence & power to intimidate. Yes they “Got him too.” But it’s not because he’s black. It’s beside the point, sadly in fact considering what we are struggling against. They got him because for decades he was brazen, cavalier, others covered for him who decided to stop, and there were so many victims. Victims who didn’t speak up because they knew they wouldn’t be believed by themselves.

4) My last point is related to his firing of Lisa Bonet and to his victims. Both in different yet very similar ways show a lack of acknowledgement of the personhood and humanity of women. He drugged and raped his victims. You may think Bonet is no big deal but he stripped her of her livelihood for making what was a reasonable career decision at the time to work with acclaimed colleagues. The implication in publicity that the film was sexually explicit (it is not) may have instead hurt her in the short & long run.

NOTE: I AM NOT SUGGESTING or IMPLYING that Bonet was victimized by Cosby sexually and I want to make that clear.

The talk around how Cosby is being so persecuted and targeted as a black man is maddening in how dismissive it is of the voices and experiences of the more than FIFTY women who have spoken up. It is sweeping aside the pain experienced by the black women in that group of 50 as if they don’t matter, even if they are Beverly Johnson.

But that’s not anything new. Is it?

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